Setting the Record Straight on Khadr

Years after Canada had welcomed Omar Khadr’s father Ahmed, he left Canada with his family and became a major figure in the Al-Qaeda terror network. The Khadr family had been provided the opportunity to have a life of freedom in Canada, but chose instead to turn to radical ideology and terrorism. Ahmed’s teenage sons became terrorist operatives alongside him in Afghanistan where Omar Khadr was filmed making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). IEDs were the cause of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan, including Canadian and allied forces along with many more Afghan interpreters, women and children.

In 2002, Omar Khadr was fighting independently of his father and brother when American soldiers raided his Al-Qaeda compound. At the end of a four hour firefight, Omar Khadr threw a grenade that killed US Army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer and injured others. Mr. Khadr was given lifesaving care, taken into custody by the U.S. military, and eventually incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp as an enemy combatant.

The Liberals have argued that the government was required to compensate Mr. Khadr because the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that his Charter rights were violated. This is incorrect. The Court did not demand any payment to Mr. Khadr. Any compensation he was owed was made when Canada repatriated him and allowed him to walk free once again.

The Liberals also claim they were fiscally prudent by settling with Mr. Khadr because $5 million had been spent on legal fees. No. The lawyers in the Department of Justice are salaried civil servants. They are getting paid whether they fight Mr. Khadr or not. Estimating and presenting their costs like this is pure politics.

Some commentators are trying to justify the $10.5 million payment by comparing it to cases like Maher Arar or famous wrongful conviction cases like David Milgaard. But Maher Arar was innocent and wrongfully detained by the Americans before being sent to a prison in Syria where he was abused. Mr. Milgaard served 23 years in a Canadian prison for a crime he did not commit. Courts and governments have compensated wrongfully accused Canadians, but Mr. Khadr was not wrongfully accused. Mr. Khadr murdered a US Army Medic.

The Liberals hope that all of this information confuses Canadians. But while the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a cornerstone of our modern democracy, it is limited to Canada’s borders or the direct actions of the Canadian government. The Khadr family did not take their Charter rights with them when they were fighting in Afghanistan. The detention of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant, while controversial, was not a violation of his Charter rights.

The Supreme Court found that Charter violations occurred on only 3 occasions when officials from the Chrétien and Martin governments visited Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo to question him. These visits, along with the sharing of information with the Americans, amounted to Charter violations because Mr. Khadr had been sleep deprived prior to the questioning. These visits were indeed in violation of the Charter, but I firmly believe the context of why Mr. Khadr was in detention must be considered alongside them. And it goes like this:

Sgt. Christopher Speer was killed by a Canadian who never should have been fighting and building bombs in Afghanistan, but who did so willingly. Because of Omar Khadr, Sgt. Speer’s children will not know their father’s pride on their graduation days. He will not dance at their weddings. And he will never know the joy of holding his first grandchild.

But I hope his children will remember this: six days before the firefight with Omar Khadr, Sgt. Speer risked his life by venturing out into a minefield to administer lifesaving first aid to two Afghan children who were trapped in the field. Sgt. Christopher Speer was posthumously awarded the Soldier’s Medal for bravely saving the lives of Afghan children. His should be the name we say more than Omar Khadr.

For more on my reaction to the Khadr settlement, please watch my new video series: Blue Skies Episode 1.